How to Choose and Use Hand Sanitizer

Everyone knows that handwashing is essential before and after food, visits to public places, and any other times when hands get dirty. Today hand hygiene has become even more crucial than ever because of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, washing one’s hands with running water and soap is frequently impossible, so there is an alternative – hand sanitizers. These disinfection solutions have become extremely popular and widespread throughout the world. The truth is, not all sanitizers are recommended, and not all of them are effective. Read the article below to know how to choose and use them effectively.

What is hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer is a new disinfection solution for human body parts. It generally comes in a liquid or gel consistency, yet it might also be foam. The main goal of a hand sanitizer is to decrease the number of infectious agents on one’s hands. Depending on the chemicals used in a hand sanitizer, it can target particular kinds of germs, be one of the genuine disinfection solutions, or only a cleaning agent for dirty hands.

Hand sanitizer components: the dos and don’ts

Before explaining how to buy a hand sanitizer, it is essential to look at the components used in the productions of this disinfection solution in hospital as well as of a commonly-available product for ‘recreational’ use.

  • This is a well-known fact that only hand sanitizers with 60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9}+ alcohol are effective. So one may think that the higher the percentage, the better. Unfortunately, there is no use in sanitizing your hands with 100{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} alcohol, so the truly effective alcohol percentage should be 60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9}-85{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9}. It cannot be pure alcohol because a hand sanitizing solution must contain some water in it for the protein denaturing to occur. Pure alcohol also tends to evaporate too quickly, so a mixture that contains water helps it stay effective for a longer period of time.
  • The kind of alcohol used is also important. Look for the labels saying isopropyl (isopropanol), ethanol, alcohol, ethyl, or 2-propanol. All of these are safe and effective for use. Isopropyl-based disinfection solutions tend to have a more pungent smell, while ethanol-based options are less toxic and have a more acceptable smell. Stay away from methanol-based (wood alcohol) hand sanitizers or those made of 1-propanol. These are not safe and may cause serious burns on your skin.
  • Additional components like aloe, vitamins, glycerin, etc., can also be present in a hand sanitizer. They ensure that your solution smells good and does not dry out your hands as pure alcohol-based sanitizers do. While such components in a hand sanitizer composition do not affect the effectiveness of this solution, they definitely add a pleasant touch to the core ingredients. Ensure that if you are selecting an ethanol-based hand sanitizer, it has denaturants listed on the label. Denaturants are added to the composition to reduce death risks and harm from the unintentional ingestion of hand sanitizer.

Some companies will also add dyes and fragrances to hand sanitizers to prevent risks of allergic reactions. Since WHO does not recommend adding those to such disinfection solutions, people with allergies are highly advised to wash their hands instead of using hand sanitizers.

Keep in mind that no hand sanitizer can guarantee a particular number of active protection hours, and it cannot guarantee perfect protection against COVID-19. No reliable FDA-approved product would have this or any information of this nature on the label. So should you see anything similar, do not buy this sanitizer since it is definitely not what you need during the pandemic.

How to choose a hand sanitizer

Choosing the right hand sanitizer means reading the label provided by a disinfection solution company on the back. Here are the three elements to search for.

  1. Type and percentage of alcohol (60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9}-85{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} and non-methanol or 1-propanol)
  2. Extra ingredients (avoid fragrances and dyes)
  3. Format (gels tend to be least pleasant yet most effective since hand sanitizers, like any other type of disinfection solution for body parts, require some time to work effectively; considering that gels tend to last longer on one’s hands than foam or liquid do, they are considered the best ones)

How to use hand sanitizer: dos and don’ts

It is a known fact that any professional disinfection solution in a hospital works well, yet it might not be right in daily life. Here are a few tips on how to effectively use hand sanitizing disinfection solutions.


  • Apply only to cleaned hands (hand sanitizers don’t work well on greasy, muddy, and dirty hands).
  • Use enough sanitizer to cover your palms and 5 cm of skin above the wrists.
  • Rub hands together for the sanitizer to cover all skin.
  • Continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds for the disinfection solutions in the sanitizer to work.
  • Rub until your hands are dry.
  • Supervise kids while using the sanitizer so it does not get into their mouths or eyes.


  • Wiping off the hand sanitizer minimizes its effect, as does the rinsing. If you feel uncomfortable after using a disinfection solution for body, it is better to wash your hands with soap.
  • Using hand sanitizer to disinfect surfaces won’t work.
  • Using hand sanitizer with less than 60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} alcohol and in temperatures over 105°F (leaving it in a closed car in the sun is not recommended).
  • Drinking hand sanitizers can only lead to severe internal burns and complicated alcohol poisoning.

Hand sanitizer vs. other disinfection solutions

There are several other solutions used against germs on hands besides hand sanitizers. Some of them are recommended, while others can make no good at all. Based on the recommendations from WHO and CDC, you can find a bit more information on what other disinfection solutions can be effective against COVID-19.


Yes, this is the number one recommendation from all world’s health-related organizations. Handwashing with soap and clean running water (tap or from some container) is the best way to keep one’s hands clean and germs-free. Whenever you have a choice to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer, opt for the former.

DIY solutions

A lot of pharmacies and retails stores now sell their own brand-made hand sanitizers. And the truth is, they are sold well since such sanitizers have a lower price in the market. Such DIY hand sanitizers made by big chains are still useful since they comply with the FDA requirements for hand sanitizers.

The true home-made alcohol-based hand sanitizers are strongly not recommended: either for production or for consumption. The reason is simple – you are not a pharmaceutics expert to know all the proportions and cannot create a working and safe solution. In most cases, home-made hand sanitizers are ineffective and do not remove sufficient germs from hands. Again, if you do not have hand sanitizer, wash your hands at home and wear gloves outside of your house to protect yourself.

Wet wipes

Wet wipes with disinfection solutions in their composition can be a temporary sanitizer replacement. Make sure that you select wipes with at least 60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} alcohol since regular wipes, personal hygiene wipes, and baby wipes cannot clean away any germs from your hands. They can clean dirt or grease and are an ideal method of hands pre-cleaning before you apply hand sanitizer. However, they cannot replace hand sanitizer or handwashing.

The bottom line

Despite the wide range of hand sanitizers in the market, not all are effective, and it is imperative to select only an FDA-approved disinfection solution for body parts. Ensure that your preferred hand sanitizer contains at least 60{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9}-85{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} alcohol and that you apply it on clean (dirt- and grease-free) hands. These are the top rules to remember to keep the germs away during the COVID-19.